The gift my youngest has given me

After I had Grey, I had a tough time losing the weight. Despite nursing, it didn’t just “melt off”. It settled in for the long haul.

After a Fourth of July when I saw a picture of myself in a bathing suit, I decided that I must have an issue with my thyroid or something. I knew any doctor I approached would ask me about diet and exercise. Of course I eat a reasonable diet and exercise regularly! That couldn’t be it! But they’d want, you know, facts of something.

So I found a website,, that helps you measure calories and exercise. For a lark I entered how much weight I wanted to lose in what amount of time. The site told me what I needed to accomplish that: namely eat 1200 – 1500 calories a day and exercise for another 500 calories worth a week (a combination of strength and cardio training). I tracked my calories for a day, not actually intending to change what I ate, until I saw how the calories added up. 

I tried their recommendations for a week, and discovered I’d lost a pound or two.

And then I discovered that every week I followed the calorie and exercise guidelines, I lost a pound or two.

It took me just about three months to get back to my prepregnancy weight. It turns out iron willpower is good for something: namely for sticking with a 1200 – 1500 calorie a day diet and exercise plan. It helped that I had some internal goals around other nutrients that kept me interested. For example, my “normal” diet includes about 17 grams of fiber. My recommended fiber intake is 25 grams. I never make it, but it’s kind of fun to try.

Once I had the pregnancy weight off, I didn’t have to work very hard to keep it off. I had developed a much better understanding of what foods sink you and what foods don’t. For example, the decadent feeling 220 calories for a pack of Oreos is equivalent to two barely noticed glasses of milk. The milk is more nutritious, but I’d simply never realized how quickly something like drinking milk could add up. I tweaked my favorite drink at Starbucks so it would be only about 30% more calories than an equivalent glass of milk (the primary source of calories in it). I ate more fruits and vegetables. I paid more attention to what I ate. I didn’t go crazy — it’s not as though cake never crossed my lips in that time. No food is forbidden, it just needs to be accounted for. And even the annoyance factor of having to enter the foods helped me resist.

The two miscarriages I had actually added a few pounds (I was in no mood to work to remove weight from them). And Thane graced me with slightly more weight than Grey had.

Now, I’m not crazy. I’m also a nursing mother. As I understand it, Thane gets first dibs on my calories — my body will starve itself to provide for him. I still need to make sure I eat enough to feed us both and NOT starve myself.

I actually find it really encouraging that I have done this before. Were it not for the pregnancies, I truly believe I would’ve kept off most of that weight. I would like to weigh the same when I’m 40 and 50 and 60, instead of starting off higher and adding on the 2 – 3 pounds a year that is normal. I believe I can do it in a healthy way.

I know there are people who cannot calorie restrict healthily. I think I’ve shown that’s not my case. I know there are people who have medical or genetic considerations that make it difficult for them to lose weight. That is also not the case. I know that yo-yo dieting is counterproductive. I do not think that this is a yo-yo diet, although pregnancy sort of makes that a fuzzy issue. I have also made sure that I have enough clothes to feel good about myself at the weight I am, not the weight I want to be. It’s hard to exercise when you don’t like your body.

But I’m ready to start trying.

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Brenda currently lives in Stoneham MA, but grew up in Mineral WA. She is surrounded by men, with two sons, one husband and two boy cats. She plays trumpet at church, cans farmshare produce and works in software.

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